As a public clergy figure in Maine, I cannot endorse candidates. Speaking as a citizen not endorsing a candidate, I write in defense of Mike Michaud’s record on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues from a personal and psychological perspective.

Many of Michaud’s critics are straight. While it is wonderful to hear non-LGBT individuals speaking for full inclusion, I believe that unless you have been through the thoughtful – and, at times, painful – process of “coming out,” you cannot lend your full experience and understanding to Mike’s personal and political evolution.

Like Mike, I was late in my coming-out process as gay. I was nearly 40 years old when the process of my coming out was what I would call complete (i.e., “out” to the planet). As a young Catholic priest, I taught that marriage was between a man and a woman, and that any sexual relationship outside that union was proscribed by moral teaching.

I cringe now to think of what I taught then, but there you have it, and life moves on. Conflicted about my own orientation, I evolved personally, theologically and politically to get to where I am now as a married gay pastor in a denomination that celebrates my life.

When society, church and personal growth converged, I became an advocate for LGBT people. This happens in the life of people like me all the time, sometimes later in life.

It has happened for Mr. Michaud, and I am happy for him and happy for Maine that he is out.

Life is complex; being gay augments the complexity. Rather than being gay-bashed and bullied for his imperfect record and previous votes in the Maine Legislature, Mr. Michaud deserves understanding and respect, especially from those who have never walked in his shoes.

Rev. Dr. William Barter

licensed psychologist and Lutheran pastor